If you own a sit-in kayak, you may have thought about buying a spray skirt for it.
However, do you really need to spend money on a spray skirt? And if you do, how to choose the right spray skirt for your kayak?
Let’s find out!
Do you need a spray skirt?
First of all, let’s try to understand whether you need a spray skirt for your sit-in kayak or not.
The short answer is that you do need to have a spray skirt. However, you don’t need to use it all the time.
The purpose of spray skirts is to keep water out from your sit-in kayak, as well as keep you warm in cold weather. When it’s cold out there, you do want to wear a spray skirt since it will provide some warmth to you and also will prevent the cold water from getting inside your kayak and making it difficult to stay warm.
In warmer weather, you may not need to wear a spray skirt.
While spray skirts are excellent pieces of equipment that every sit-in kayak owner should have, there are a few things to remember with them:
- Spray skirts limit your freedom of movement.
- Spray skirts make ejecting yourself from the kayak more difficult in a capsize. You will thus need to practice getting out of a skirted kayak before going to paddle.
These two caveats don’t make spray skirts unworthy of having, but they should be kept in mind.
Spray skirt anatomy
We’ll use some spray skirt-specific terms below – particularly, those relating to the anatomy of a spray skirt. Spray skirts comprise of the following parts:
- The tunnel, which is worn around the kayaker’s torso.
- The deck, which covers the kayak’s cockpit.
- The rand, which grabs the cockpit’s lip to ensure secure fastening.
Spray skirt material
Spray skirts can be made from neoprene, nylon, or a mix of both. Material greatly impacts how protective and comfortable a spray skirt is, so let’s overview each of the material options below.
Neoprene skirts are usually all about protecting the wearer from cold. These skirts have neoprene or rubber rands that are designed to firmly grip the cockpit of the kayak.
The taut grip of neoprene spray skirts makes them exceptionally resistant to breaking waves – in whitewater or extreme conditions, it’s unlikely that a neoprene skirt will be ripped off its place. Not only that, but the tightness ensures that little to no water gets inside the kayak.
Spray skirts also snugly grab your torso, allowing for better retaining of warmth inside the cockpit, as well as preventing water from getting inside from above.
With that being said, neoprene skirts put some limits on the freedom of movement, as well as are difficult to remove during a capsize. But they still remain excellent for very cold or extreme water conditions.
Nylon spray skirts are preferable for moderate conditions. Skirts made from nylon are more comfortable to wear than neoprene skirts, but with the tradeoff of reduced tightness and protection from water and cold.
Nylon can be fully waterproof, but it may also be breathable, allowing you a greater range of options when it comes to the comfort of paddling. Often, nylon skirts also allow you to adjust the fit of the tunnel with hook-and-loop fasteners or cords.
Nylon spray skirts are easier to take off during a wet exit, but they are not as secure in extreme or cold conditions. Thus, use nylon skirts only in not too cold weather and bit calmer waters.
Neoprene/nylon skirts combine the best of both worlds – the comfort of nylon and the tight seal of neoprene. These spray skirts may not be as good in terms of comfort and safety as pure nylon and neoprene skirts respectively, but they may work a bit better in varying conditions.
Spray skirt mounting
Pay attention to how the spray skirt is mounted and fixed on the cockpit’s lip. The rand of a spray skirt may have an elastic bungee cord with a knot or a one-piece neoprene rand. The former offers adjustability of the fit, while the latter boasts increased security and better sealing. Usually, nylon spray skirts have bungee cord rands.
Spray skirt sizing
Needless to say, it’s crucial to pick a properly sized spray skirt. In fact, the spray skirt needs to have a good fit not only for you but also your kayak.
Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to pick the right spray skirt size for your cockpit size. Most manufacturers have made sizing charts with kayak models in them, so the only thing you need to do is to find your kayak in the list and pick the stated skirt size.
If you can’t find your kayak model in the sizing chart, you may contact skirt manufacturers or local paddling shops to order a custom spray skirt.
As mentioned above, nylon spray skirts have adjustable tunnels. Thanks to this, nylon spray skirts are pretty much one-size-fits-all, so you don’t need to pick a size with most of them.
With neoprene spray skirts, you will need to find a proper size. You need to measure the circumference of your midriff – the area between your chest and waist. Then, have a look at the size chart provided by the manufacturer to pick the right size.
A properly sized spray skirt will sit tight enough to stay on while you are paddling, but not too tight – you want to breathe easily, right?
Spray skirts for warm weather
There are also half spray skirts which are excellent for use in warmer weather. With tunnels a bit shorter than in regular spray skirts, half spray skirts allow for easier air circulation, and they still do a solid job of keeping water out of the kayak. Just keep in mind that half spray skirts won’t be able to keep you as warm as regular spray skirts.
Shoulder straps: Some spray skirts feature shoulder straps to keep the tunnel fully extended. While the shoulder straps make putting a spray skirt on a bit more difficult, they are worth it if you are worried about safety and tight fit.
Pockets: Pockets can be very handy in sit-in kayaks. It’s fairly difficult to reach a kayak’s storage compartments with a spray skirt on, but if you keep your essentials in your skirt’s pocket, you won’t have to worry about dealing with discomfort while trying to reach your stuff.
Tensioned deck stay: Tensioned deck stays are a feature of nylon spray skirts. Deck stays make nylon skirts sit a bit tauter on the cockpit’s rim.
Now, you know how to choose a spray skirt for a kayak.
In the end, we think that you should consider buying several spray skirts – for example, a neoprene skirt for extra-cold weather, a nylon skirt for moderate weather, and a half skirt for warmer days. A neoprene skirt won’t be the best option for warmer days, and vice versa.
It really is worth it to buy a spray skirt for your sit-in kayak. However, do make sure that you choose the right one for your needs. The tips provided above should allow you to find that best spray skirt for your kayak!
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